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Hamas urges Hezbollah to pull fighters out of Syria

Published: Updated:

Hamas on Monday urged the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, saying its involvement in that war is contributing to the “sectarian polarization” of the region.

Hezbollah should focus its efforts on fighting its arch-enemy Israel, said the Islamist Palestinian movement in a statement released in the Gaza Strip.

“We ask Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria and to keep their weapons pointed at the Zionist enemy, namely because their involvement in Syria has contributed to an increase of sectarian polarization in the region,” the statement said.

The Syria war has triggered sectarian tensions in Arab countries, including in Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah, a Muslim Shiite movement and long-time ally of Assad’s government, has been increasingly involved in the Syrian conflict now its third year, with militants battling alongside the Syrian army against the mostly Sunni Muslim rebel fighters.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Friday that his fighters, who helped Assad’s army recapture the town of Qusayr, a former rebel stronghold, will stay involved in the Syrian conflict.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and was the key factor in forcing the Jewish state to finally withdraw from that country in 2000.

In 2006, it fought a deadly war with Israel that devastated south Lebanon and much of the Shiite-majority southern suburbs of Beirut.